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Motivated by the desire to encourage your athlete, you may find yourself resorting to tactics that could be perceived as controlling or pushy without realizing it. It’s easy to fall into the trap of subtle negativity and pushiness – such as comparing your child to other athletes or signing your child up for a personal trainer when they didn’t request it. When this happens, your child could feel pushed and less likely to respond in the way you’d hoped—by working hard to reach their potential.
There are ways to encourage and facilitate your athlete’s growth without taking control of the process. The next time you feel the urge to encourage in sports, try this approach:
Encourage by actively listening.
Really listening to your child is a way to show them that you love and support them.
Encourage by asking questions.
Not asking prying questions (unless you suspect something that needs to be addressed), but questions that show interest. What was the best part of practice today? Tell me something new you learned.
Encourage by being involved.
When you help out your child’s team, you are showing them that their team and their sport is important to you too.
Encourage by praising their progress.
Your child cannot control the end result, but they do have control over the steps in the process. Focus on that and the end results will take care of themselves.
Encourage by being the parent before and after the game, not the coach.
Even if you are your child’s coach, be the parent away from practices or games. They don’t need a coach 24/7; they need a parent to unconditionally love and support them.
Encourage by showing love, no matter how they perform.
You may not intentionally communicate disapproval to your child if they lost, but sometimes the way you say something, or even your body language says that they just didn’t measure up. After a tough game, the loudest thing your child needs to hear is your support and love. They will learn to correct their mistakes in time.
Encourage by being present.
Sometimes just being there—at the game, listening in the car—is all your child needs to be encouraged to keep trying.
Encourage by just giving a hug instead of always trying to fix with words.
I’m a words person and often felt the need to fix my kids with my words. I soon learned that how I made them feel was more important than the words I said. Sometimes a hug is all they need.
Encourage by letting your child learn how to push themselves.
Believe it or not, your child will be encouraged when they learn to work hard on their own and when they see the results of that effort. The best thing you can do in this process and stand back, watch, and applaud.
Encourage your child’s choices, not yours.
The bottom line is this: it’s youth sports, and your child should decide if they want to play, and what sport they want to play. Whether you like the choice or not, let your child learn the lesson of living with the decisions they make.
Each one of these steps, in and of themselves, is simple. But don’t underestimate their power to encourage your child to work hard and achieve success.